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100 Japanese foods to try

IMG: Rice with umeboshi

What 100 Japanese foods would I recommend people try at least once?

I tried to keep away from foods that are only available in certain regions, or even certain restaurants or homes (e.g. my aunt's homemade udon) and stuck to foods that are widely available in Japan. I've also tried to include foods from all categories and all price ranges, from wildly expensive matsutake mushrooms to cheap and sometimes not so good for you snacks. I also did not limit the list to 'genuine Japanese' foods (純和風), but include Western-style yohshoku dishes and a sprinkling of chuuka (imported Chinese) foods that are so ingrained in Japanese food culture that most people barely think of them as Chinese any more. And of course, I have eaten all of the foods listed at least once - in most cases many, many times. I like them all!

Type:  feature Filed under:  japanese ingredients offbeat lists

About Japanese ingredients and substitutions

[Updated to add Substitution section.]

I haven't exactly counted it up, but of the thousands of comments left on Just Hungry, not to mention Just Bento, probably at least a quarter are questions about ingredients or ingredient substitutions. So I thought I might put down what my criteria are for what kind of ingredients I choose to feature in the recipes on either site, especially when it comes to Japanese recipes. [Update added on August 15th, 2008]: I've also added some suggested, and acceptable, substitutions.

Type:  feature Filed under:  japanese ingredients philosophy produce

Recently, a reader asked in the comments about what I have for breakfast. It is definitely not as elaborate as this one.

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The sixth and final episode of The Supersizers Go was dedicated to the Regency period, the time of Jane Austen and the lecherous, gluttonous, foppish, trend-setting Prince Regent, later George IV. Again, Giles and Sue play a well off middle-upper class couple of the day--he is a small landowner with an inheritance of around £50,000--but instead of being married as in other episodes they are brother and sister. This is so that they can portray the difficult state of an unmarried woman (Sue) with not much of her own income. The cold and sometimes horrified expressions on her would-be suitors' faces reacting to her desperate advances seemed a bit too genuine. Here she is trying to hang onto a gentleman.

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The erstwhile food time travellers went back to the earliest era covered in the Supersizers Go series, the Elizabethan period, which would be the equivalent of the Renaissance in the rest of Europe. It was a great time in British history, with adventurers exploring the world and bringing goods back from the New World, and the arts thriving, especially in the form of the Great Bard William Shakespeare.

It was also a quite exuberant and uninhibited society, one of the reasons why it's one of my favorite periods in history. Here you see Sue Perkins contemplating Giles Coren's massive codpiece with amusement.

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Since watching the '70s edition of The Supersizers last week, I've been on a bit of a nostalgia kick. I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on the perspective) enough to have spend my '70s childhood in three countries due to my father's job--England, the U.S. and Japan. I have fond memories of food, especially sweet snacks and candy, from all three places, my tastes have changed so much as and adult that I can't stand many of them anymore. The one sweet from that era that I still love is Meiji Chelsea butterscotch candy.

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Near the end of the fourth episode of The Supersizers Go in which the food time travellers go to the 1970s, Sue Perkins says that she saw the '70s through the banisters of the staircase, as she and her siblings peered downstairs at the goings on of the adults. This was how I experienced a good chunk of the '70s too. I used to peer through the treads of the very '60s open wooden staircase in the house my parents rented in Wokingham, Berkshire, head upside down, spying on my parents and their guests when they entertained.

In any case, the '70s episode was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be, purely for the nostalgia value. I kept on squealing in recognition at many of the various foods trotted out. It did help that I actually spend a few years in the '70s living in England with my family, since the Supersizers focused naturally on a very British version of that decade.

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The third episode of The Supersizers Go was not as interesting to me as the previous two, simply because I knew a lot about how the Victorians ate already. I didn't realize how much I knew until I'd watched the episode, but it's all come down to us via Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and other period literature, not to mention Mrs. Beeton or even the American Fanny Farmer. Also, it doesn't look like a whole lot changed between the Victorian era and the Edwardian period, which was covered in Edwardian Supersize Me. Still, those Victorians were sufficiently different from us in their eating habits to seem quite alien, but this was definitely the transitional period between the past and modern times.

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I was not intending to do a recap of each episode of The Supersizers Go, but they are so interesting and just right up my alley. So, if you don't have access to BBC 2, are here for the Japanese recipes, or both, please indulge me. I'll try to be brief.

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I've had my Wii Fit now for almost a month (it was released in April here in Europe). I know it's not directly related to food, but since a lot of people who visit Just Hungry are interested in fitness and weight loss, I thought I'd share my thoughts about it after using it for some time, especially since it just became available this week in the U.S. (Besides, way more people are likely to read it here than on my sporadically updated personal blog.)

Incidentally, I've written about the Wii as a fitness device previously on my personal blog, focusing on Wii Sports. In a nutshell I was not convinced that playing Wii Sports would do much to improve your fitness.

So, what about Wii Fit then?

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